27 October 2011

Art Journal: Portraits Like Wow

Here are the second installment of paintings in the daily painting challenge that I'm doing with my Nick and Rose.

I decided that I wanted to draw a portrait for this piece. I had a canvas with the splotches of pink from the previous day's piece, so I just drew right on top of that. I used a photograph I found online as my reference. I found the quote on a film noir website and thought it was perfect.

Since I did a portrait and liked it, I decided to try another one:

She is so odd, but I absolutely love her! I felt so inspired by this piece that I drew a bunch more! I love how each portrait takes on her (or his) own personality. I start with reference photographs, but they soon take on their own life. The last two were drawn just from my head, no reference photo. I love even the ones that aren't that great! Which ones do you like?

25 October 2011

Art: Film Challenge

I can't remember for sure if I blogged about the challenge that Nick and I started last week. I challenged him to make a "bad" painting every day for a week. We chose Nature as our theme. The idea was quantity, not quality, though I have to say that we turned out 14 nice looking paintings between the two of us!  This week, our friend Rose is joining us, and the theme is Film.

Here are my first two pieces:

When I heard film was our theme, I knew I'd be exploring film noir. I used a quote I found on a noir fans website (a collection of favorites) and an image of Rita Hayworth, that I altered in Photoshop to look like a stencil. (Who knows: maybe I'll carve a stencil of the design for future projects?). I painted the background purple, let it dry, then painted quin. magenta fluid acrylic on top. While it was still wet, I covered the surface with saran wrap (also a "film") and let it dry. This gave me a cool texture. Made a packing tape transfer of the stencil image, wrote the quote using a Copic marker, and covered the whole surface with gel medium to affix the tape transfer. Finished by adding a layer of self-leveling gel (which is still wet, hence the smoky patch in the middle of the image.)  This is a 12x12 canvas, which is a new size for me, and I love it! Will be buying more in this size today.

Here's my first piece this week:

Also purple... hmm... maybe I'll stick with the same palette all week? We'll see...

23 October 2011

Helped Wanted: Baby Craft Ideas!

So... I'm not a baby person. I think babies are cute and all, I just don't wanna own one. So baby crafts = not my thang. Now that my sister has officially announced her pregnancy (you know, on Facebook), I can put it out there that I need suggestions for cute baby-themed gifts that I can make! Got babies? Great! I need your advice! My sister is due in April. I want to make something cool for the nursery (ideally that is cute and functional!) and I want to make something cute for the baby. We don't know the baby's sex yet, so preferably something gender neutral, at least for now.

If you have a project on your blog or know one from another blog that you think is super cute, please add it to this linky! It doesn't have to be a tutorial, just something to give me ideas! Or leave a comment below with your ideas.

22 October 2011

Random: My Art Gallery

In yesterday's discussion in my online class, Falling For You, I mentioned that my studio space was my art gallery. I thought I'd post some pictures of the walls in my studio ( / boyfriend's studio / living room) to show you!

Eventually, I'll post pictures of the whole studio to give you a tour, so consider today a sneak peak. This
is the wall right above my desk, which is to the right in the picture. On the far left in my font light that my cat, Smudge, likes to attack when I'm not looking. The white bins underneath the hanging light are where I have sorted my fabric into color families. I have lots of pretty fabric and am working on using it! 

Nick hung all of my paintings (some of which have hand-made frames... they all will eventually) for me. I didn't worry too much about the order, other than alternating framed with not framed, because I basically just needed them out of the way so I could make more paintings! I should photograph and list these for sales, but I haven't gotten around to doing that just yet. The empty space in the line up is from the painting that I sold. (Hurray!) I have about 7 more paintings ready to be hung, so some of the empty space will be filled in soon.

In the corner is a vintage oval photograph that I trash picked. It was probably tossed because a part of the frame was broken off, but I just think it's the coolest thing ever. She is kinda creepy, but definitely my crafty muse. 

The group of four paintings here are the four seasons doll paintings that I created in Doll Dreams. I think Summer (top left) is the best of the bunch. On the right right is my signed Rasputina poster. (Yay!) The painting in the lower left is part of a creepy nature series that I've been working on this week. I'll post pictures of the completed series soon.

This is the main "gallery" wall. Nick has a collection of black & white images, some are photographs, some are his etchings work, and the text piece was a gift from my friend Jen. I decided that I wanted to have a spot in the room where all the pieces would be grouped together. There are still a few spaces in the area so I'll have to make some b&w art (maybe for this week's "bad" painting challenge since our theme is film?)

To the right and below is Nick's studio space. 

The colorful pieces are several paintings by me and three framed prints of my art journal pages. I'll eventually have another row of three above the six that are already there. Below the prints on the mantle are four more canvases, a piano sculpture by Nick's uncle Roger, and some miscellaneous stuff. I'll post better pictures with the next installment.

15 October 2011

Recipe: Hot & Sour Eggplant

It's been a while since I've shared a recipe here, so I thought that today I would share my current favorite dinner recipe: Hot & Sour Eggplant. This stuff is AWESOME! If I get a hankering for Chinese food, I make this recipe at home. It tastes as good as anything I can order out and it's so very easy to prepare!  With the exception of the eggplant, all of the ingredients are things that I have as staples all the time, so no difficult shopping lists either. Plus, it's vegan, how about that?

Tastes better than it looks!
Hot and Sour Eggplant

You will need:
6 long Chinese eggplants or 1 -  2 regular eggplants*
2 cups sliced bell peppers (any color) -- approximately 2 - 3 fresh or use frozen Melange A Trois from Trader Joes
1 large onion, cut in half then sliced
4 cloves garlic (optional, but delish!)
(Note: You could also use only eggplants, leaving out the peppers and onions. I like to add them in for variety, plus it tastes great!)

* I have made this with both and haven't noticed any difference in taste. I said 1-2 because it really depends on the size of the eggplants that you have available. If it's a huge eggplant, one should be fine. Smaller ones might warrant two.

For the sauce:
6 T. soy sauce (or tamari)
4 T. rice vinegar (any vinegar will do)
4 T. sugar
4 t. cornstarch
2 t. olive oil (sub vegetable oil as needed)
1 T. Wild Thymes Thai Chili Roasted Garlic dipping sauce (to taste! like it hotter? add more! I prefer slightly milder)

Almost time to buy a new jar!
About the Thai Chili sauce: I love this stuff! When I order takeout Nim Chow from my favorite Thai place (Apsara!), I add a little of this to the peanut dipping sauce for zing. Wow! The original recipe that mine is based on called for green chile pepper and chili oil. (My version uses 4 times the sauce, so alter accordingly.) You can buy the sauce online or look for it at a specialty-type grocery store near you. I bought mine at the East Side Market Place in Providence.


Cube eggplant (no need to peel) and sprinkle heartily with salt (about 2 T.) Cover with cold water and soak for 30 minutes. Rinse very well and lay out on paper towels to drain. The salt removes some of the bitterness that eggplant can have. I don't recommend skipping this step!

Heat 4 T. vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook until softened. Add the garlic (minced) and cook for an additional minute before adding the eggplant. Cook until the eggplant is softened, about 10 minutes.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

When the eggplant is softened, stir the sauce into the skillet. Stir until the eggplant is evenly coated with sauce and the mixture has thickened, about a minute. Serve immediately.

When serving this, I usually serve it over oven-baked brown rice, which if you start it right before chopping and soaking the eggplant, will be ready at close to the same time as the eggplant mixture. Last night, I used a mixture of leftover brown rice and microwaved quinoa. Delicious!

13 October 2011

Falling For You: Challenge #3

Post your entry for the third challenge: Everyone's The Same here!

11 October 2011

Art Journal: Free Webinar with Quinn McDonald

I just got an email from CreateMixedMedia about an upcoming FREE webinar with Quinn McDonald, author of Raw Art Journaling called "So You Say You Can't Draw." I haven't seen the book yet, but I've read a lot of positive feedback about it online. The best thing is that if you register for the webinar, you'll get a free recording of it. That's great for me because I won't be able to "attend" the whole thing live due to work. Space is limited to the first 1000 people, so I suspect this will fill up fast!

Here are more details:

Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Starting Time: 1:00 P.M. Eastern Time
Price: FREE!

About the Webinar:
Is your inner gremlin holding you back, telling you you're not an artist, can't draw, shouldn't waste your time art journaling?
In this FREE online event, experienced mixed media artist and certified creativity coach Quinn McDonald will show you how to overcome your own self-doubts and start journaling like you mean it!
Quinn will demonstrate several techniques featured in her book, Raw Art Journaling, to spark your visual creativity, and through a highly visual PowerPoint presentation, you'll learn that it isn't all about the drawing.
During this webinar, you'll learn:
• What Raw Art Journaling is, how it differs from other art journaling and why it's right for you.
• Techniques for working with emotion, playing with words and using personal imagery and mark making in your journaling in place of "traditional" drawing.
• How others have made meaning in their lives and art by following Quinn's advice and working with her techniques.
The PowerPoint presentation wraps up with a Q&A session during which you'll have a chance to ask Quinn questions.
Everyone who registers for this event will receive:
• A FREE recording of the webinar.
• An opportunity to order Quinn's book, Raw Art Journaling (and other goodies!), through ShopMixedMedia.com at a special discount! (Discount will be given to you at the end of the session.)

10 October 2011

Art In Progress: Art Quilt, Part Two

I finished my art quilt... yay!

She is already hanging on my studio wall, and I'm already thinking about the next one... I don't think I mentioned in my last post, but the girl is one of my drawings that I scanned and printed on fabric. The text is my own hand-writing turned into a font and printed on fabric. Cool, right?

I decided to glam her up with a bunch of purple sequins. I did a tiny knot for each one to hold it in place. It was time consuming but so so worth it! I also added a lovely orange button in the center of her flower. Even though I think she's done, if I found some lovely metallic thread, I might have to embellish her eyes. Maybe on the next girl...

Another button and some rick rack! I don't know if there's a certain way you are supposed to sew rick rack, but I just do a tiny stitch at the top and button of each wave. It works for me!

This was such a fun project! I'll definitely be making more of these! I thought I wasn't into quilts... but I was wrong! Still, I don't see me ever making one much bigger than this one (at 8 x 10 inches).

09 October 2011

Art in Progress: Art Quilt!

Here's what I'm working on today:

I decided to step back from my owl painting until I decide what's next. (I have an idea in mind, but I'm still contemplating.) I need to be recording videos for Falling For You and updating my schedule. (Originally, I had a solid schedule for the first four weeks and left the rest fairly flexible. I've come up with new prompts and techniques, so I have to figure out where they will fit in. I think a planning trip to Panera tomorrow is in order!)

I also need to be prepping class supplies for my Bling Bling classes this week. We are making chunky fabric bangles, and I've decided that the best way for us to do the project is for me to precut all of the student fabric choices into the required strips before the class. I was going to have the students cut their own strips but a) I only have one pair of fabric scissors & b) I am kind of fanatical about my fabric scissors not being used to cut pipe cleaners, the other component of our project. Cutting the strips should be pretty fast using a rotary cutter, but I'm procrastinating.

Yes, I consider making an art quilt procrastinating.

I am almost always making something. I'm either working in my art journal, sketching, painting, or organizing my workspace. I make jewelry samples for my classes, research new projects, and buy crafty supplies. The only time I'm not making something is if I'm really not feeling well or late in the evenings when I'm vegging out watching tv. More often than not I'm journaling while I'm watching tv or simultaneously reading a crafty magazine, like ReadyMade or Cloth Paper Scissors. So, yeah, I procrastinate by doing something other than what I'm supposed to be doing.

I've been wanting to make art quilts for a while now. I love that it's sort of like a tactile journal page. I figured that I could apply similar techniques only using fabric. The problem? All of my fabric was stored in boxes on top of my kitchen cabinets (hey, it's a small apartment, gotta make use of the space we've got!). Also, I have no available space for sewing. So I've been thinking about organizing the area for months... and finally got around to it last week.

I bought translucent bins from Ikea and colored coded all of my fabric. I LOVE this idea and can't believe I've never done it before! I have 7 bins of fabric: pinks, reds, black&white, golds/yellows/browns, greens, blues, and random prints that don't fit anywhere else. I set up an extension cord on my huge craft table for my sewing machine and today I finally got to make my art quilt.

I'm really not good at sewing. I don't care about even stitches and straight lines.  Truth be told, I have a love/hate relationship with my sewing machines, leaning mostly to the hate side. I am constantly breaking needles, snapping threads and swearing at my machine. Surprising, I had no issues whatsoever with today's project! I didn't break any needles, I only had to rethread the needle once, and I didn't swear even once. Woah!

Add caption
My general method was: I chose an ugly fabric to be my base fabric. I layered bits and pieces of fabric until I liked the look. I pinned everything in place, stitched around the edges, then went in with more stitches to make sure everything was tacked down (I left the side of the green fabric on the left undone because I loved the frayed look of the fabric as is.). I then cut a piece of batting and a random piece of fabric (the pink batik) for the backing. I sewed this randomly together. 

My original plan was to bind the edges using black, but I rolled over the backing fabric and decided I liked how it looked. So I trimmed off the extra base fabric, rolled the edges, pinned into place and stitched the edging. Next I'm going to add buttons and whatever else catches my fancy. I'll post the finished piece here when it's done.

Painting in Progress: Owl, Day Three

Here's where my painting stands right now:

Is it finished? I'm not sure. I might give his eyes some more paint and add more feather detailing... but he might be done. Nick thought I should add a tree in the background, but I'm kinda liking the simple look, especially since there is a lot of detail in the background, it's just subtle. (It doesn't exactly look subtle in this photo, but that's because I had to use the flash to take the picture. The white that shows up with the flash is much more subdued.)

What do you think?

08 October 2011

Painting in Progress: Owl, Day Two

Today I added some burnt umber mixed with glazing medium and two drops of quin. magenta to add darker feathers and to work on the owl's eyes. He's not finished yet, but here's where the painting stands right now:

Next step will be working on the eyes a little bit more and adding white feathers and highlights.

07 October 2011

Painting in Progress: Owl

I've been inspired to paint lately. I finished working through my first box of 20 canvases and am currently working on box number two. I have, let me count, 20 of my paintings currently hanging on my studio walls (it will be one less very soon, as I've sold one of them! Yay!). I also have several paintings in various stages and one finished piece that I haven't hung yet. Woo!

Today I've been working on an owl painting. Why an owl? Well, let me give you my very scientific reasoning: I googled "what should I paint on my canvas" and in the first result link that I clicked, the answer was, you guessed it, an owl. So there ya go. Google inspiration.

Since I have a massive supply of yellow ochre heavy body paint, I decided to use it for my background color. I started with a huge canvas that I trash picked last month. It had a half-finished pastel and graphite image of a long skinny guy walking under a moonlight sky. It was interesting and I should have taken a photograph, but, oh well. I just covered the whole thing with yellow ochre and let it dry.

Next, I sketched in the basic outline of what I thought an owl would look like and painted in the shape with titan buff soft-body paint. Now to work on the background.

In addition to a large quantity of yellow (baby poop) ochre, I have a bunch of ancient modeling paste. I figured I'd put it to good use by pulling out one of my trusty templates from The Crafter's Workshop and my palette knife. I added large circles with modeling paste, as seen here:

(Oh, and the red up in the corner was a test run of Quin. Red fluid acrylic that I just dripped onto the canvas, let it run a bit, then laid it flat to dry overnight.)

Next, I wanted smaller circles, which I forgot to photograph, so I altered my large stencil with painter's tape to make a smaller circle and added those with more modeling paste. Brilliant! I was thrilled with how well this worked!

Once the modeling paste was completely dry, I mixed up a blend of yellow ochre, iridescent medium, glazing medium, and water. I mixed this up in a used prescription pill bottle which worked amazing well! I just shook it up and get to work painting over the whole background. I love that the background now had this monochromatic awesome texture thing going on, but it was still a little too, well, yellow ochre for my taste.

To correct this, I used another pill bottle and shook up a watery gesso mixture, which I painted over the whole background, including the red drips as seen in the earlier picture. Much better!

Now it was time to start the owl, and I have to say, I'm happy with the way it's coming along. I used: white, burnt sienna, and quin. magenta paint for my color palette. I originally painted the eyes white, but decided a few minutes ago that quin. nickel yellow was the way to go. They are crazy bright, but I'll decide how I feel about them in the morning. I still have to add the black part anyway.

The next thing I'm going to do is use a darker brown, burnt umber mixed with burnt sienna, most likely, to add more definition, but my light is bad now, so I'm calling it quits for the evening.

Here's where he stands right now:

02 October 2011

Random: My Dream Home

Nick and I have been saving up for a house, but we're not looking into a traditional home at all. I've been fascinated with the idea of tiny houses for a long time. Each apartment that I live in seems to get smaller and smaller, like I am slowly downsizing enough to live in a tiny house. I'm still aways away from being able to do it, especially since it won't be just me as the original plan entailed, but me and Nick. (Which is way better, really!).

My mom has an acre of land in Pennsylvania. Before my dad passed away, I'd discussed the idea of me building a tiny house at the back of the property, and he'd agreed to the idea. The land has been unused and unloved for at least 15 years. It's overgrown, wild with vines and all sorts of native plants, and it's the most beautiful place in the world. There's a giant patch of blackberries, wild strawberries and wild onions all over the place, a type of cherry tree, among other things. What used to be a yard and a garden is now a baby forest in the middle of rural suburbia.

Even though I have no experience whatsoever in building anything beyond frames for my paintings, and that's a new skill, my dad was a wood worker, which means that any tool I could need is likely gathering dust in the workshop. I've been feeling like Nick and I should be able to accomplish the project, with some help from friends, and this video convinces me that it's a definitely possibility! My idea is to build a tiny house, followed by a tiny art studio, both of which will be on wheels, like the house in the following video, which means when I can finally afford my own land, I can move the house as needed.

I know it sounds crazy to lots of people, but to me, it's perfectly logical and a natural extention of my lifestyle. I've moved around a lot since I turned 18. I've lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and, currently, Rhode Island. My longest stint was in Greensburg for 6 years, but that was about 2 years too many. I start to get antsy if I'm in one place for too long, I guess, but the thing is: I don't really like moving, even though I like being in new places. I am, however, open to changes and the whims of the universe, which is how I ended up as an art teacher in Rhode Island. Stranger things have happened... though I'd never have predicted this career path for me!

Having a house on wheels would be an ideal combination of both worlds: stability and the gypsy in me. For a while, I'd thought I'd satisfy this urge by buying an RV, but more and more, I'm looking at tiny houses. I'm nowhere near having enough money to start the project, but I might be able to start collecting materials next summer. I definitely plan on doing like this gal did: collecting from craigslist, curb alerts, and other free sources. I already have access to an old chicken coop!

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